I have some great press about the Venus Project being up at the River’s Edge Gallery in Wyandotte, MI and I keep thinking I have added it to my blog and yet I can’t find it. This is making me nuts. I guess if I updated this blasted thing more often I would eventually figure out what the heck I was doing. But in the mean time I will try yet again. Oh well I guess I will just copy and paste. Awesome I think it worked…wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!
“Venus of Willendorf” takes over gallery
Friday, January 14, 2011
New Year’s Resolutions have taken on a different look in River’s Edge Gallery’s front window in downtown Wyandotte.
That’s where the Willendorf Project, a large-scale installation by artist Brenda Oelbaum, is displayed.
The three-dimensional work is a physical and visual commentary on the U.S. government’s “War on Obesity” and the multibillion-dollar diet industry.
Words such as “Revolution” and “Don’t Diet” painted in red by the artist on the window punctuate the message.
Oelbaum, an Ann Arbor resident, was inspired by a Stone Age sculpture of a naked obese woman named the Venus of Willendorf.
It is made of limestone and covered with red ochre. Historically, this little statue has been considered a Venus or fertility symbol.
When Oelbaum saw it in a diet commercial about 10 years ago, she realized that the simple image of a Venus had been distorted into “something ugly and something women should fear; another tool for self-loathing.”
“I am obese,” she said. “I believe very strongly that my attempts to control my size throughout my life have brought me to this shape.
“I have suffered every eating disorder known to man — and some that are only now being classified as such.
“Years of dieting and following external rules around my food intake have created such havoc in my life that it is taking me even more time to unravel the mess it has left in my brain and on my self esteem.”
As an installation artist, she conveys this message using her own art incorporated with props as a visual representation of the message.
The props in this case are thousands of diet books donated by dieters and artistically placed in the window to create a landscape for her papier-mâché Venuses, which are fully constructed from pages of diet books from such pundits as Dr. Phil McGraw, Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Robert Atkins.
A life-sized photo of Oelbaum adorned only with diet books is another central piece of the installation.
The Willendorf project has had many reincarnations, including one at the recent Grand Rapids Art Prize competition, where Oelbaum presented an 800-pound Venus made from various diet books.
“I want the viewer to feel the volume of the diet industry and to see how useless it is in resolving the so called ‘obesity crisis,’” she said.
“It is my thesis that it is better to accept yourself the way you are, and to accept the fact that people come in all different sizes than to try to mold yourself using unrealistic and unhealthy eating patterns for the sake of societal pressure and misinformation about health.”
She also added, “It is hard to be OK with yourself when everything, every commercial and every magazine is screaming that you have to change yourself.
“Of course it is about money, and the diet industry has made dieting itself an obsession and the truth is, from my own experience and many others, that diets are what make you fat.”
Oelbaum said she still has moments of weakness when she’ll buy a diet book or a pill, but now ends up incorporating them in her project.
Gallery owner Patt Slack said she chose to feature Oelbaum’s work because she wants young girls to understand its message.
“I know the war and am also a victim of it,” she said.
“Be proud of who and what you are and lead a healthy lifestyle — not one given to you by the ‘never thin enough, never good enough’ society.”
Oelbaum’s exhibit will be followed by a show called “My New Year’s Revolution” opening at next week’s Third Friday event.
Oelbaum will host “The Great Rip Up” during which people are invited to bring their old diet books and rip one up.
The pages then will be used to create another Venus.
The show runs through Feb. 18 at River’s Edge Gallery, 3024 Biddle Ave., Wyandotte.
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